Tri-State malls persist despite retailers’ woes
• By COURTNEY HESSLER
• Mar 19, 2017
Lori Wolfe/The Herald-Dispatch Construction continues Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2017, at the Huntington Mall in Barboursville.
HUNTINGTON – Tri-State area shopping malls continue to offer nearly a full array of shopping options, despite national struggles among some of the nation’s top retailers.
Michelle Adkins, mall manager at Ashland Town Center, said the facility is at nearly 100 percent occupation.
“The retail brands come and go. It’s always been the case in the retail industries,” she said. “When we see that happen, our retail team works to fill a store.”
While the Huntington Mall has lost some longstanding stores in the past year, Joe Bell, director of corporate communications for The Cafaro Co., which owns the Barboursville shopping destination, said it gives the business a chance to rebrand itself.
“We’ve had a lot of things going on here, and all for the better. We have been in the midst of creating an all-new concept,” he said.
That concept includes the idea of dual stores. Currently the mall is building onto Dick’s Sporting Goods to conjoin it with a Field and Stream store. On the other end of the mall, T.J. Maxx and HomeGoods will open in a conjoined area where Elder-Beerman once stood.
Bell said both will be open in time for holiday shopping in the fall.
According to Associated Press reports, between Oct. 29, 2016, and Jan. 2, 2017, department store spending was down nearly 5 percent from the same period the previous year and women’s retailers declined nearly 4 percent. Overall consumer spending grew 4.7 percent over the holiday season, while online retail purchases grew 12 percent.
Since New Year’s Day, Macy’s stated it would move forward with plans to close 68 retails stores, cutting more than 10,000 jobs. Sears Holdings Corp. has said it will close another 150 stores, including 109 of its Kmart locations. Apparel retailer The Limited announced it was closing all its brick-and-mortar stores, including its Huntington Mall location. J.C. Penney on Friday revealed the 138 stores it plans to close in coming months. But none of the planned closings by those retailers have hit area malls so far.
In 2016, the Huntington Mall lost stores like Elder-Beerman, but Bell said it was not shocking and follows a 50-year cycle of stores coming to fame and then slowly disappearing.
“We have seen a lot of churning in the retail marketplace in the past year or so, and to a large extent,” he said. “That’s kind of part of the regular cycle of retail.”
The stores have since been replaced by stores like Maurices and Forever 21. Also slated to open by the fall is Torrid, a woman’s fashion clothing store. Torrid is also expected to open in the spring at the Ashland Town Center.
In 2016, the Ashland mall welcomed new tenants Hot Topic and Carter’s.
Among its biggest developments, the town center introduced “KidX Kid’s Club,” which is a program to encourage children to explore their world. Adkins said the program hosts monthly events at the mall, which parents can register for at ashlandtowncenter.com.
Adkins also said the town center opened a new children’s play area with a science theme to help inspire children in the subject, while also encouraging health care.
With retail development Tanyard Station expected to open just miles from the Huntington Mall next year, Bell said he believes a need for traditional shopping malls will always be around.
“Probably about 20 years ago, there was a rise of what we are calling lifestyle centers,” he said. “These were open-air shopping centers that basically had the look of an old, downtown shopping center. It’s a good concept and it works – except where you get weather that changes.”
Bell noted the Huntington Mall thrives on having a mixture of both open-air shopping options and enclosed shopping to give customers the experience they are looking for.
Adkins agreed with Bell, stating continuous ideas and brainstorming to keep up with technology helps keep the traditional mall alive.
“In today’s digital era, there are things you can do in the mall that you can’t do online that bring shoppers in,” she said. “We are always trying to give out-of-the-box ideas to bring people in.”
One detail that can’t be replicated in an open-air center, Bell said, is the sense of community the mall provides. Each year, the malls host several events ranging from bridal showers to education fairs for children and charity events to help raise money for good causes.
“We believe strongly in programming that involves community groups, and our marketing people are very good at creating a wide variety of programs that appeal to people who are of all ages,” he said. “You’ll see them sprinkled throughout the calendar.”
Adkins said malls not only create an internal community, but become part of a larger one.
“At the Ashland Town Center, we help to create jobs and contribute to the local economy,” she said. “It really brings our community together.”
For more information about the Ashland Town Center, visit ashlandtowncenter.com. For more information about the Huntington Mall, visit huntingtonmall.com.
Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD